Wuhan authorities have announced a ban on the consumption of wild animals and farmers are being offered a government buy-out to facilitate the transition. The local administration of Wuhan, the first epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, reportedly said that wildlife hunting will be banned except for research purpose, population control, and disease monitoring, adding that the city will become a “wildlife sanctuary”.
The origin of SARS-CoV-2 is not known but preliminary studies suggested that the bats could be the source since the coronavirus present in bats has a genome that is 96 per cent identical to the novel coronavirus. It is believed that the wildlife market in Wuhan caused the virus to transmit through another host, probably pangolin because the bat coronavirus cannot bind to receptors in human cells, however, there has not been any concrete evidence.
According to the plan published on May 15, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces have provided an exit strategy for wildlife farmers who will be compensated, allowing them to opt for alternative livelihoods such as growing fruit, vegetables, tea plants, or herbs for traditional Chinese medicine. Dr Peter Li, Humane Society International’s China policy specialist, said in a statement that these provinces are demonstrating global leadership by subsidising wildlife breeders to transition to alternative livelihoods.
“Chinese farmers not only have an opportunity to leave a trade that poses a direct threat to human health but also to transition to more humane and sustainable livelihoods such as growing plant foods popular in Chinese cuisine,” said Li.
In April, Shenzhen became the first Chinese city to ban the sale and consumption of cat and dog meat after the coronavirus outbreak was linked to the consumption of wildlife meat. The food safety legislation was proposed in February which came into effect from May 1, extending the prohibition on the consumption, breeding, and sale of wildlife such as snakes, lizards, and other wild animals.